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Other Minds Presents: A Secret Rose by Rhys Chatham

Published November 17, 2013

Other Minds presents a live recording of Rhys Chatham’s “A Secret Rose” performed at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA. on November 17, 2013. This performance features a large ensemble of electric guitarists mostly from Northern California but also includes some from around the United States as well as the United Kingdom, Italy, Argentina and the Netherlands.

In 1977, composer Rhys Chatham, first artistic director of famed New York multi-disciplinary art space The Kitchen, was working with a group of visiting graduate students from Mills College. Among them, Peter Gordon, was shocked to learn that at 25 years old and in the thick of a musical revolution, Chatham had never been to a rock concert. Chatham considered himself a hardcore minimalist composer, a protégé of first-wave New York minimalists such as La Monte Young, Philip Glass, or Steve Reich. This was radical in of itself considering his upbringing in was steeped in the mores of early Baroque and Renaissance music. Per Gordon’s insistence, Chatham attended a Ramones concert at the infamous New York nightclub CBGBs. Astounded to learn of a commonality between his own work and that of a punk band, the Ramones’ relentless three-chord assault shattered Chatham’s musical perception and subsequently set the young composer en route to forever altering the DNA of rock ‘n’ roll and classical music.

Beginning with his seminal work “Guitar Trio,” Chatham broadened his exploration of the overtone series with a new weapon, the electric guitar. Combining the extended-technique approach of his forebears with the wall-of-sound aggression of bands like The Ramones’, Chatham and his cohorts unremittingly clanged out their one-chord fascination while the air above them filled with singing overtones. Despite the relative harmonic stasis of each individual player, their accumulated effect was a rich and shifting spectrum of notes ringing out in sympathy and playing tricks on the ears. After working in this capacity for a time Rhys could not help but wonder what the effect of a large ensemble of guitarists playing simultaneously would sound like. In 1983, Chatham began work on his guitar orchestra concept with “An Angel Moves to Fast to See,” which would eventually blossom into A Secret Rose and cement his legacy in the annals of modern music.

“A Secret Rose” was composed in 2006 and has been performed only twice before, once in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and again in Rome. The work is split into five movements and the players into three sections. The piece ranges from thunderous fortissimo passages to soft, eerie chiming. Chatham will conduct three assistant directors who are assigned to the three different sections. The three sections are further subdivided into sections a. and b. Each of these three sections plays in a special tuning, allowing for a total tonal exploration.

[Notes from Program Guide]

Run time 84 min


For more detailed program information and to browse other material in the Other Minds Archive visit:


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